In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. 5 Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

Matthew 3:1–2 ; 5-6 [NRSV]

No major event ever takes place without some advance warning. Just think about how long we hear about the Super Bowl or a political election. There is much build-up to the main event for one primary purpose…so we won’t miss it…or if we do miss it we have made a conscious decision to do so.

In the same way, John the Baptist came and began announcing that the Messiah was on his way. This would be the one that no one wanted to miss. And people were going out of their way to hear John’s message and participate in John’s discipleship program of repentance with baptism.

Quite frankly, John wasn’t much in the way of appearance and his sermon was straightforward. Some may even have said it lacked theologically depth and creative artistry! And why didn’t John go to where the action was in Jerusalem? Surely there would have been water for baptism somewhere in the city.

No, John didn’t make it easy. Neither did he make it complicated. But you had to make a move. You had to leave your comfortable place. You had to want to hear…

I wonder how often we miss the word or work that God has for us because we are not willing to leave the comforts of our lives? How often does the message pass us by as we remain hunkered down distracted by busyness or looking in another direction?

May this Advent begin with us hearing the simple message of repentance…turning to God. This will mean something different for every one of us. And it will mean the same thing for us all…a willingness to hear; a genuine heartfelt desire to leave behind what is not of God.

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